Agencies cooperate fighting fires

The Turtle Rock Fire burning on July 25. (Provided photo/Nolan Brewer)

Turtle Rock Fire

By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

The Turtle Rock Fire burns on July 24. (Empire Press photo/Suzanne Robinson)

A brush fire that was reported at about 8:50 p.m. July 24 on the east side of Highway 97 near Turtle Rock, just north of Lincoln Rock State Park, was declared 100 percent contained by 6:30 p.m. July 26.

Nolan Brewer, a fire unit manager for the Department of Natural Resources, said July 27 that smoke may remain over the area for a while, but several engines would continue to monitor the fire site. Brewer said the smoke was due to timber burning in a draw that was not safely accessible. Because extinguishing the fire in this area was not essential to control the fire, the command team decided to let this portion of the fire burn itself out.

Control of the fire was a unified effort between the Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Douglas County Fire Districts 1, 2 and 4. Chelan County Fire District 1 also helped on July 24.

Brewer said that the agencies formed a unified command so that each was able to participate in creating a plan to fight the fire and together they were able to execute this plan.

As soon as they were called in, leaders gathered around the base of the fire and discussed the options. They didn’t see a direct attack in the evening as being feasible, so they aimed at some basic control efforts that night and made a plan for how to approach the fire at daylight on July 25.

Fortunately, weather was on the firefighters’ side as the fire was not being fueled by wind.

Douglas County Fire District 4 Chief Jim Oatey said that his crew spent its efforts that night tying an anchor point to contain the fire on the north side. Then they worked with other districts to get in another anchor point at the south side.

Crew members were able to return home by midnight.

District 1 Chief Dale Jordan said that about an hour after the fire started his agency was informed that the fire was moving toward the district. They coordinated with the unified command and helped contain the fire at its head.

Mike Bromiley, a volunteer firefighter who farms the land at the top of the plateau above the fire, was able to direct agencies into this remote area.

Jordan said that it turned out that the fire was mostly in District 2, with District 1 having some acreage, and District 4, the original responders, having little acreage.

“We take care of it and then we look to see whose fire it was. It doesn’t make any difference; we work together,” Jordan said.

One of the decisions the unified command made the evening of July 24 was to arrange for sufficient air support for the next day. Two helicopters, four scooper planes, an aircraft for aerial supervision, and a large air tanker were ordered. Later in the morning, the command called in a third helicopter.

On the ground, there were four hand crews, two teams of five engines each, two tenders and several more brush trucks. Two dozers were also contracted.

Brewer said that in firefighting, air support slows the fire down, but the fire is extinguished by the men and women who directly attack it from the ground. He said this held true for the Turtle Rock Fire.

Brewer said that at the end of the day on July 25 the fire was declared 20 percent contained.

By the morning of July 26 it was 80 percent contained.

Douglas County Sheriff Kevin Morris said that during the fire the sheriff’s office communicated with the unified command. They issued one Level 1 evacuation notice. They also provided a Special Operations Command vehicle for one day, and had two patrol boats out on the river to keep the waterway clear while aircraft accessed river water.

The fire burned 717 acres of brush, according to Brewer. As of July 27, the cause of the fire was still under investigation.


Other fires in the area

Chelan Hills Fire

ORONDO — Crews from local jurisdictions and from across the state battled the Chelan Hills Fire reported July 27.

The fire started about 1:15 p.m. on Friday near milepost 233 by Highway 97, south of Beebe Bridge. It burned in short brush, grass and wheat.

Participating agencies included the Bureau of Land Management, Douglas County Fire Districts 1, 4, and 5, and the Department of Natural Resources.

Northwest Interagency Incident Management Team 11 (NWT11) assumed command of the fire on July 28, allowing local emergency resources to return to their immediate jurisdictions.

Evacuation levels had been in effect for Chelan Hills, McNeil Canyon, Beebe Ranch, Beebe Park and the Lone Pine area. The NCW Fairgrounds and the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society offered to house animals affected by evacuations. The Red Cross set up a shelter for evacuees at Orondo School. Evacuations levels were lifted by July 30.

As of July 31 at 7 a.m., the fire had burned 1,842 acres, and was 97 percent contained with 244 personnel assigned. Although some internal burning continued within the containment lines, the fire had not grown in size, according to the NWT11 report.

Some structure damage was reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Brush fire near Mansfield

MANSFIELD — A brush fire burned near Highway 172 east of Mansfield on July 27.

No houses were threatened but wind and smoke made travel dangerous for motorists, according to Douglas County Sheriff Kevin Morris. Highway 172 was closed in both directions from milepost 25 to 35 during the afternoon.

Crews from Douglas County Fire Districts 3 and 5 were at the scene.

The fire was declared 100 percent contained around 4 p.m.

— From The Wenatchee World